When I was first beginning to voraciously 'down' poetry, I purchased a Howard Bloom compilation of poetry entitled "The Best Poems of the English Language". This anthology was advertised (or rather, is advertised) as, "From Chaucer Through Robert Frost"; it gives the generics of poetry, or rather the basics (generic has such a negative intonation), with pieces from Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Keats-- the 'biggies'. Already, a reader may be thinking that I put this in the perfectly wrong thread category. I considered the book discussion forum, but felt that the post would be more helpful for a writer than for a reader. The great mass of poetry (around 1000 pages) is headed off with an introduction by Bloom which was titled “The Art of Reading Poetry”. This was intended for a reader, obviously, but the essay lays down perfectly what tools of language an aspiring poet must utilize (although there are no instructions for the use of the tools). I found it to be interesting, if not immensely helpful, and post this rant to share some (there are too many to share all) of the nuggets which Bloom tried to offer. Bloom states that ‘poetry is essentially figurative language, concentrated so that its form is both expressive and evocative’. He goes on to explain how ‘figuration is a departure from the literal’, so a poem’s form can be a trope (non-literal speech) or a figure. He cites Burke, and states the four fundamental tropes: irony (meaning one thing and saying another), synecdoche (a part is substituted for the whole, or vice versa), metonymy (one substitutes an association for a phrase), and metaphor (something represents something else). By utilizing these four tropes, one can create meaning that would otherwise not exist. One can change the meaning of words, even. Language is concealed figuration: we recognize common phrases for their given meaning, we associate. “Greatness in poetry depends upon splendor of figurative language and on cognitive power, or what Emerson termed ‘meter-making argument’” Bloom says. One can utilize recognition, fuse thinking and memory to create poetry; poets often allude to other works of poetry. Finally, Bloom enters the nitty-gritty, and asks ‘what makes one poem better than another?’ To answer this, Bloom juxtaposes Poe’s Alone (a truly terrible poem) with Emerson’s The Rhodora (a work of genius). I won’t post each here, this rant is long enough without them (Congrats, you’ve made it this far! I wasn’t expecting it... were you?). Anywho, Bloom identifies the difference between the two: confidence and surety versus ‘self-pitying and metrically maladroit’. Poe’s Alone in comparison with Byron’s Lara, which it seemed to mirror, is ‘pathetic in the context of torrent and fountain, cliff and mountain, rolling sun and flying lightning, thunder and storm cloud’. One has to have style, and have a bit of conviction. Bloom implores poets to let their words be inevitable rather than predictable. A reader (or writer) should ask what the poem’s message is, and question the way in which the message is played. It is important to the eternity, or is it just for the current-now. Finallyfinallyfinally (for real, this time), great poetry may be accessible or clear, but the ‘best poems are subtle, evasive, Hermetic, and call for a heightened awareness of the nuances of figuration’. There is no set type of poetry; the commonality is that poetry ‘expands our consciousnesses. Sorry for all of this nonsense; I hope you (if there even is a you who has made it to the end) enjoyed this, even if you thought it was completely ridiculous. I would go on to give my own interpretation, but I think that this rant is long enough. Sorry for all of the paraphrasing and quoting, as well (I didn’t think that this would have ended up as such). Ah well. I would highly recommend that any reader/writer of poetry go out and buy this book, though, if only for the introduction. I feel that I should cite my source because this is such an obnoxious post… so here it is: Bloom, Harold. The Best Poems of the English Language. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.